"...elegantly engineered, sophisticated design... equally effective against radar, lidar and red light cameras"
- Excellent radar sensitivity
- Protects from red light cameras
- Extensive features, user settings
- Exceptional resistance to false alarms
- More-detailed manual could be helpful
The Whistler CR90 marks the company's first offering in the windshield-mount, GPS-enabled class of radar detector and occupies the top spot in the CR-Series. Close family relations include three non-GPS variants that differ mainly in features and price: the Whistler CR85, CR80 and CR75.
The Whistler CR90 sports an all-black housing, its upper section mercifully devoid of the chromed buttons and other brightwork that adorns too many competing models. Those may look fabulous on the store shelf, but try living with the reflected glare cast onto the windshield during a day-long drive.
The front of the Whistler CR90 case is dominated by a blue OLED text display that’s far brighter and higher-contrast than many such designs we’ve scrutinized lately. Its designers fortuitously resisted the temptation to cram too much into the available real estate, instead allowing space for generously-sized fonts, readable in bright sunlight and from several feet away without the aid of binoculars.
A visual user interface assumes added significance on GPS-enabled radar detectors like the Whistler CR90. GPS provides real-time vehicle speed, location and direction of travel, opening up a host of advanced functions. Included are warnings of nearby red light cameras and speed cameras, courtesy of GPS coordinates programmed by the manufacturer into an onboard database. A USB port on the right side of the case allows updates of the red light camera database to keep it current.
In the Whistler CR90, the GPS antenna resides inside the housing, where it belongs. In contrast, some early Cobra GPS models used a thumb-sized module that plugged-in to the USB port. This worked, but during testing we found that the module not infrequently came adrift and disappeared, usually under the seat.
Both voice alerts and tones are provided, easing the Whistler CR90’s information-delivery task. Visual alerts are displayed on the OLED screen, augmented by two dazzling blue LEDs that flash during radar and laser attacks.
The Whistler CR90 is designed for plug-and-play operation. But it has an unusually broad array of user settings—we counted 21 primary menu items but probably missed a few—that allows extensive fine-tuning of the CR90’s operation and behavior.
There’s a veritable buffet of features intended to reduce annoying false alarms but without hobbling performance. Three City modes progressively lower X-band sensitivity or disable it. There are six filter modes for the trio of radar bands, allowing a separate level of filtering for each. Audible alerts can be speed-based, keeping mum below a threshold velocity.
Engaging TFSR (Traffic Flow Signal Rejection) tells the Whistler to ignore signals from the low-powered, pole-mounted radars increasingly being used by transportation departments to monitor traffic flow and speeds. Installed at regular intervals at roadside, these pests trigger periodic alerts—mostly K-band—unless TFSR is asked to intervene. First it recognizes the spurious signals, then ignores them and declines to false-alarm. We tested these systems in metro Denver and verified that both work well.
One invaluable feature is Ka RSID, short for Ka-band Radar Signal Identification. It verifies when a Ka-band radar signal is coming from a police radar gun and not one of the innumerable other sources that pose no threat.
Being able to instantly spot a bogus Ka-band alert is anything but marketing hype. That’s because Ka band's extraordinary width makes it home to a plentiful number of signals, frequently the harmonic of the local oscillator used in older radar detectors. These can create K- or Ka-band signals that any properly designed radar detector finds indistinguishable from the real thing. Then it duly sounds the alarm.
Ka RSID presents non-threating Ka-band radar signals in a simplfied format.
Genuine Ka-band signals ID the base frequency, display the number and signal strength. This alert is worth heeding; a Kustom Signals or Decatur Electronics radar is transmitting not far from this location.
Clever design elements let a driver glance at Ka RSID and know instantly whether the alert is bogus or coming from, say, a Stalker police radar gun over the next hill. The concept was pioneered by Escort but its operates differently from Whistler's KaRSID system. Escort and subsidiary BEL (Beltronics) detectors merely display a five-digit number, out to the third decimal place.
For instance, you may see 34.696 (expressed in gigahertz or GHz, meaning billion cycles per second. But few outside the police radar industry have any clue what these numbers mean. Whistler simplies the task and offers two types of display. Non-police signals show only the band and signal stregth, the latter with arrows that grow more numerous as signal strength rises. This also is denoted numerically, an approach that's relatively tough to misinterpret, even by non-native English speakers.
Genuine threats are depicted by an abbreviated, three-digit frequency and to its right, the band and numeric signal strength. Spend ten minutes using the feature and it becomes second nature.
Aside from the range-topping CR90, the Ka RSID feature also is standard on the Whistler CR85 and several lesser Whistler models and remains one of the more useful tools for avoiding a ticket.
Advanced users are also invited to sample LSID, Whistler-speak for Laser Signal Identification. This displays numerically the PPS (pulses per second, sometimes called PRF, or Pulse Repetition Frequency) of an incoming laser beam. Very conscientious users blessed with good memories can equate this number to a speed laser’s make and model.
For example, an LSID reading of about 200 means you’re likely facing a Kustom Signals Pro Laser 4 or Pro Laser 3, widely sold and very popular with traffic-enforcement officers. This data nugget probably won’t affect the outcome of a typical laser encounter, but could prove useful as a conversational ice-breaker when meeting a bored state trooper.
Another advanced feature is called Segmented Selectable Laser Receiver. This divides laser detection bandwidth into three segments and allows one or more to be deactivated, reducing false alarms from non-police laser signals. In factory-default trim all three are engaged, but the exceptionally adventurous are allowed to experiment.
Laser detection is a task where the Whistler CR-Series models excel. The CR90 and its siblings proved unusually adept at spotting lasers, including several new laser guns that outwitted some of the best radar detectors we’ve tested lately, including far pricier models. The better high-end laser jammers, $500 and up, remain the only reasonably fail-safe countermeasure. But packing a Whistler CR90 or another CR family member offers more protection than we’d have expected for the money.
Whistler CR90's LSID feature accurately identifies laser threats, in this instance a Kustom Signals Pro Laser 4 speed laser.
Against radar threats the Whistler CR90 delivered nearly identical performance to its forebears, the Whistler Pro 78SE, Whistler XTR-690SE and Whistler XTR-695SE. (Not surprising since they all share the same well-sorted electronic platform.)
At our Curve/Hill test site the Whistler CR90 and CR85 stayed very close to class-leading BEL (Beltronics) Pro 100 radar detector. Against its Cobra competition the Whistler CR90 (and the CR85 we also tested) proved significantly hotter on the X-band radar frequency.
That gap shrank on K band but widened again on the two most widely used Ka-band radar band frequencies, 34.7 and 35.5 GHz. This is worth noting since Ka band is the radar frequency of choice for nearly all state highway patrol divisions and state police agencies across North America.
We also found commendable the consistency of the two Whistlers’ radar performance against all four of our radar guns. The BEL Pro 100 occasionally eked out a modest lead in range, but this dogfight wasn’t conducted on dead-level ground. We included the BEL Pro 100 because even at a non-discounted $179.95, it was the only Beltronics model to meet our under-$200 price criterion.
Buy the Whistler CR90 now
"...elegantly engineered, sophisticated—
and very effective"
- GPS warns of red light cameras
- Shows speed, compass heading
- Class-leading radar warning range
- Exceptional laser-detection
- Extra filtering resists false alarms
Orders in before 4pm CST
shipped the same day
A non-GPS radar detector, in this price segment the BEL Pro 100 is something of a ringer, created by taking a $300 Escort/BEL M4-platform-model and ruthlessly deleting content and features to reduce cost. It retains the hotshot performance but as a comparatively bare-bones, entry-level model—for the upscale BEL brand at least—it offers hardly any of the features standard on the competing Cobras, the $199.95 Whistler CR90 or Whistler CR85 ($159.95).
In a field littered with tepid efforts, half-baked products and failed promises, the Whistler CR90 stands out for its elegant, intelligently-engineered and sophisticated design, not to mention its effectiveness in countering radar, lidar and red light cameras.